Lighthouse is a beacon of hope to young people

WORKING LIFE: Lighthouse Futures Trust works with a variety of employers, like John Lewis, as part of its internship programme.
WORKING LIFE: Lighthouse Futures Trust works with a variety of employers, like John Lewis, as part of its internship programme.

A Leeds charity is helping young people with autism and Learning Difficulties into the world of work.

Lighthouse Futures Trust in Cookridge is running a Supported Internship programme for young people with autistic spectrum condition and/or learning difficulties who are struggling to get on the first rung of the ladder into employment.

ASSISTANCE: The Lighthouse Futures Trust in Cookridge has helped find work placements for young people through its Talent City scheme.

ASSISTANCE: The Lighthouse Futures Trust in Cookridge has helped find work placements for young people through its Talent City scheme.

Statistics show that young people on the autistic spectrum have just a 16 per cent chance of employment nationally.

Caron Munro, programme and development manager at Lighthouse Futures Trust, said: “In Leeds It’s much lower and a large percentage want to work and are more than capable of working”

But the group’s Talent City programme aims to circumvent those obstacles and to showcase young people’s talents and abilities to employers.

The first stage sees students from special schools in Leeds doing one day at week over the academic year at one of the Trust’s social enterprises.

HELP: Lighthouse's Caron Munro, left, and Katie Parlett with Jason Clarke, of Lowell.

HELP: Lighthouse's Caron Munro, left, and Katie Parlett with Jason Clarke, of Lowell.

They can opt for experience in retail at Keepers Coffee and Kitchen on Otley Old Road in Cookridge.

Or the more green-fingered can try their hand at ‘Branching Out’, the Trust’s gardening and grounds maintenance arm. Students have worked at Harewood House, Lotherton Hall, Temple Newsam and with the city council’s parks and gardens department.

After completing part one, students can apply to phase two, a more intensive supported internship. They get the chance to work with companies such as Yorkshire Water, KPMG, Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals, NHS Primary Care Trust and John Lewis four days a week.

Ms Munro highlighted the case of one young man with selective mutism. His condition meant he would have really struggled in a traditional job interview. But with the trust’s help he thrived after going to work for a geological survey company in Leeds logging bore holes.

GARDENING: Branching Out gives people experience in grounds maintenance.

GARDENING: Branching Out gives people experience in grounds maintenance.

Ms Munro added: “The family have written to us saying it’s ‘amazing’. He is a completely different young man and his confidence has grown. He said all he has every wanted to do is to make his family proud. I think they are now because he is doing such a fantastic job.”

She said parents and carers also benefited, adding: “If you look at the social return on investment it is huge because families can now go out and work. You have not got young people who are staying at home and being isolated all day. It makes a massive difference to the dynamics of a family knowing that everybody is out there working and happy.”

The trust has had some impressive results with its internship programme but is keen to do even more.

They have smashed the average of getting young people into employment and are currently running at 80 per cent outcomes.

Miss Munro said: “We really need more employers. One in five people are on the autistic spectrum. We need to reflect in the workplace an accurate picture of our city. There are all these talented people who if employers met them may struggle following typical recruitment processes, we can overcome that barrier and help them plug their talent gap, give them a loyal employee and increase employee engagement. This makes the workplace a happier one as our interns really enjoy going to work.”

If you can help or would like to know more about the Trust’s work then email: caron@lighthousefuturestrust.org.uk.